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Saturday 12th August - 'What do you recommend?' 'The manta ray is good'

After some breakfast at the hotel (which of course consisted of some oily eggs, bread and cheese) we played tetris with our car again and headed off. Our destination for today would be Pavlodar. A small city near the border of Russia. We drove for a few hours then stopped in a very tiny town called Ereimentau to find some lunch. There was only one restaurant in town so we pulled up to it. Walking inside everything looked very dead. We could smell food and hear some ladies out the back. We called out for someone to walk over to the main counter and had some young girls peek around the corner and giggle at our English. Eventually a woman who seemed to be some sort of manager came over and we used google translate to say we were after some lunch. It felt like we were some poor beggars off the street explaining that we were hungry and needed some grub. The restaurant was closed but the ladies in there seemed to be cooking for some function happening that evening. Bless their socks they decided to cook some lunch for us and damn was it a good meal! We had fries and chicken on an actual hot plate for each of us. Quite funny what we ended up with because initially the ladies were suggesting we order the 'Manta Ray' off the menu. They said it was one of their tasty dishes. We have no idea if this was a google translate mistake or if manta ray was indeed a menu item. We're quite glad we didn't end up with it and got chicken instead.

Jumping back onto the highway we had to once again drive on a shite road right next to a near complete perfect road. We've been keeping an eye of the Whatsapp group for 2017 Mongol Ralliers. Haylee noticed a post by someone asking if anyone would be in Pavlodar this evening. She replied and said 'yes we would!' The message came from Matthias who explained his girlfriend Anja is in Pavlodar and wouldn't mind catching up with any teams. We were a bit confused but finally figured out the story. Matthias is a doctor (from Austria) and had to fly home to work a few days and plans to return to the rally on Tuesday. His girlfriend Anja stayed in Pavlodar to organise some mechanics to fix their car and get new wheels until he returned. That's where we come in, we told Matthias we'd definitely meet with Anja for dinner.

We'd been told by locals that the road conditions from Astana to Pavlodar was about fifty/fifty. That it was! Some roads were terrible others were perfectly fine. The fact that the road conditions were broken up like this made it bearable.

(typical on the mongol rally to drive right next to a perfectly good road)

We arrived into Pavlodar where we'd booked a hostel. We're trying to throw some cheap nights in here and there because all of us are running low on cash. We pulled into a bunch of apartment blocks. To Aussies these apartments would have been considered on par with housing commission but here in Pavlodar we think they were simply average apartments. Kids were running around, rubbish was lying on the ground, grandmas were sitting out the front of buildings and mud puddles were everywhere. Didn't look too promising. We had a photo of the hostel door entrance but couldn't find it anywhere. When we did eventually find a door that looked like the right place we couldn't even get inside without an apartment building key. In the end we decided we'd just go over to where Anja had told us she was staying.

Ten minutes later we'd checked into the hotel and dumped our bags in the rooms. We met with Anja and decided to go next door to Dublin Restaurant to grab some grub. Don't be decieved. Dublin Restaurant is not an Irish pub. In fact nothing on the menu was even Irish.

We had a nice evening chatting with Anja about how there are no kangaroos in Austria! Anja signed our boxing kangaroo flag with the same quote. We chatted about our travels through all the numerous countries and the horrible road conditions of Kazakhstan. We're extremely proud to say we taught Anja a bunch of Aussie slang; we also warned her about all the drop bears in Australia and showed her some hideous photos of them. We even got her to say on camera "get to the chopper!" Before we knew it the hour had gone past midnight and we walked a painstaking ten metres back to the entrance of the hotel for a good nights rest.

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